The Death of Bunheads

Does anyone remember Bunheads? It was this quirky little show about ballerinas by Amy Sherman-Palladino (Gilmore Girls) that I remember actually first made me want to write for Persephone. I saw the many television show recaps through Persephone that drew together fans of shows and had great conversations and I wanted to do that too. Alas, by the time the opportunity to write for Persephone came around, Bunheads was already in sad limbo, and the future looked dark.

I’ve been keeping tabs on the situation, and unfortunately, on July 22, I found an article that confirmed what I feared would happen: Bunheads had been cancelled. If you don’t know what Bunheads was, here’s a recap: Michelle Sims (Sutton Foster) once danced for a big ballet company, but major character flaws drew her away from the stable and defined parameters in life to a more go-with-the-flow style. However, at thirty, she’s a Las Vegas showgirl with no options for a career advancement. There is a wealthy man, Hubble Flowers (Alan Ruck), who seems kind enough, though so bland that the only interesting thing about him is that his almost stalker-like behavior is truly good-hearted. A decision born from a concoction of alcohol and despondency from a failed audition has Michelle marrying Hubble and getting “whisked away” to Paradise. California.

Hubble was probably the most obvious plot device in the entire season, and this was exacerbated by the fact Palladino kills him off in the pilot, and posthumously revealed he had put everything in Michelle’s name – which brings her to contend with his scatterbrained but talented mother, Miss Franny (Kelly Bishop), who owns a dance studio. This dance studio is where Michelle begins to develop a life as she takes up in the house in the back and becomes part teacher, part mentor to the students that flock to Miss Franny’s studio to learn the art of dance. Four of these dancers, Sasha (Julia Goldani Telles), Boo (Kaitlyn Jenkins), Ginny (Bailey Buntain), and Mel (Emma Dumont), quickly become her followers. While Sasha’s raw talent and massive family problems draw her close to Michelle first, throughout the season we watch as Michelle plays confidante and alternative parent to each, highlighting Michelle’s character and the overarching storyline along with defining four individual girls whose lives are drama-ridden but worked through with such amusing approaches that one could never call this show a dramedy, and instead just take the joy of it and crack up.

The storylines were really going somewhere, and the character development was wonderful to watch. And one of the best parts was that the girls were the main characters. Boys and men were there, and certainly a big part considering the show had four teenage girls as main characters, but these girls also had ambition, and interests unrelated to guys. Mel had a burgeoning desire to succeed as a part of a roller derby group and was dealing with her father pushing college on her at sixteen. Ginny’s parents were divorced, her dad was getting remarried, her mom was going insane and she liked the new guy Frankie to top it all off. Sasha was determined to be an amazing ballerina, but was also dealing with her parents divorcing over her father being gay and living on her own. And Boo, ah, Boo was delightfully awkward and unsure of herself in everything but her love for ballet, and watching her grow was one of my favorite parts of the show.

Meanwhile, Michelle and Franny were in a completely different place. Franny was a dancer on her way to the top when she got pregnant and became a mother and a dance teacher, who has now lost her son but gained a daughter of sorts. Franny is over the top, but she’s brilliant and kind. Michelle seems to hate putting down roots, but now that she has responsibilities in Paradise, she can’t help but do exactly that. She questions whether she’s giving up on her dreams. She loves the students she’s teaching. She pursues her career, she faces past issues, and she’s got guts and verve. She was like an awesome big sister.

So, I’m in mourning. I sincerely hope that magic happens and this show gets picked up somewhere else (somehow?), but until then, I’m going to have to settle for rewatching episodes on Netflix and imagining what could have been. Is there anyone else out there with me?

6 replies on “The Death of Bunheads”

It was just such a…nice show. Like a comfort food kind of show. Like mac and cheese and tuna fish. And I LOVE Sutton Foster-she’s so awesome and talented and I want to be her in my next life. And she’s pretty, but pretty like someone I’d actually know and not like someone that only exists in magazines. (And I debated leaving in that last sentence, but I get frustrated with all the TV women being gorgeous and in perfect shape, but Sutton Foster is “normal” pretty and I like that. Plus, I love that they hired the best person for the role, and not someone pretty that could kindasorta sing and dance . And she’s in great shape, but that’s a side effect of being an a-MAH-zing dancer, not due to being like all “I work out with my personal trainer 3 hours a day and eat a perfectly balanced diet created by my personal chef.”)

Y’all are exactly right! It was such a NICE show! And I think that was the unfortunate problem. Networks are really against nice shows it seems. They have to be high on drama and crazy and have all those harsh hooks. Shows that don’t get whacked. I mean, some of them make it for a long time but eventually they get cut. There was that show “The Forgotten” (which wasn’t always easy to watch since it was about a group of dedicated volunteers trying to find the identities of dead people found with no identification on them), or “Without a Trace” which was about missing people (I’m beginning to sense a theme in my tastes for shows and what I think is “nice”) but they were still not high drama like some shows. They were almost ordinary if that makes sense and that was awesome. “Bunheads” was amazing comfort food tv for me, especially last year. I would come home from my classes and work and sit down at my desk with some food and go to hulu and scroll onto the newest episode and have forty something minutes of thorough enjoyment. It was nice. Can I call evil patriarchy on this one somehow? It’s all their fault. I’m sure I could find a basis for it….

I’m with you, my sad friend. I was really hoping to see more from Amy Shermain-Palladino when this show arrived, and it was quirky and fun like, if a little more dramatic, than Gilmore Girls. I wish she’d had the time to really explore the characters more. Instead we get to leave on a huge turning point. Boo.

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